Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Not-So-Obvious List of How to Pack for a Music Festival with a Small Child

Taking a small child to a festival can sound pretty scary. There's the heat, expensive unhealthy food, the question of napping and all the freaky people (if it's a good one). But I think it's really rewarding to dance in a field with your child, if you are prepared. In fact, I substituted it for my long run on Sunday.

While looking online to see if I'd forgotten anything, I found no help in getting ready. So, in a change from my usual posting, I've decided to write down a few things I've learned in the last 3 years of parenting-at-festivals. In addition to the usual (sunblock, water, hat), these few items can fit into a backpack (except the final two, of course).

(random video from youtube, this cute boy isn't mine)

  • Food: I don't care that festivals don't allow food. I always pack a small lunch box, aim for the security queue with a woman who looks like a mother and hope she'll know there is no joy is spending 12 hours with a toddler living on corndogs & coke. An apple, a banana, a PBJ, ziplock bag of raisins/nuts/dried fruit, an applesauce & mini spoon, a few boxes of Parmalat (boxed milk), water cup. Add a granola bar for you or whatever you need to keep you from your own melt down when you're tired and sick of waiting in the burrito line for 45 minutes. Bringing food for your kid is legit - they know you'll still spend money on beer and kettle corn.
  • Earplugs/Studio Headphones: It's so very loud, even in the back, so cover those ears so you have at least the option of heading up front with the wee one. Great for naps, too. If you don't have studio headphones or Bose sound canceling headphones, bring several pairs of the foam plugs since they are easy to lose (and oh so cheap, and I guarantee you'll be asked by another desperate-looking mother if you've got extra).
  • 2 changes of kids clothes in Gallon Ziplocks: tightly folded in large ziplock - put everything in it's own ziplock. When the chaos of the fest hits, individual see through bags make it easy to sift through. The ziplocks can be used to hold trash later.
  • Pajamas: tightly folded in large ziplock. Dress kid in PJ's as you leave venue & pray for sleep on ride home. Leave 'em in the car if the walk/ride back to your ride isn't too long.
  • Blinky Light: Put on kid when sun starts to go down and so (s)he won't beg you to buy a $12 glow toy.
  • Camera/Cell phone/Pen: Take photo of kid when you get to fest so if/when (s)he gets lost you say to staff (s)he looks exactly like this. I have a ribbon that has our info on it that I safety pin to the back of my kid's clothes and when I forget it, I just write my phone number on his arm.
  • Folding Beach Mat: I've recently discovered the absolute beauty of one of these folding mats. Not only is it totally compact & easy to fold, but you can sit in wet grass without getting wet. And if it rains or gets mud on it, it cleans up and dries quickly.
  • Small squirt Bottle: Because it's hot & water makes it tolerable. Besides, it's an activity.
  • One small imagination toy: like a truck, a couple matchbox cars, an inflatable ball, doll, or a shovel.
  • Jogging stroller: You need giant wheels to get you through the grass, mud and rugged terrain of a festival. You need a place for your child to nap. You need instant shade. If emptied of valuables, it can be left anywhere. No one is going to steal it (people leave tents, blankets and chairs near stages, your stoller is no different).
  • Prepped Car: Leave behind in the car a bottle of water (because you'll never be able to find water once you leave), bedtime stuff (blankie/animals/box of milk) and change of clothes for you . Keep an extra snack/sandwich/munchie for the ride home. You might want to have wipes (for a hippie bath) and a pillow.
Anyhow - If it sounds like a lot, it really isn't. I haven't ventured camping at a fest with my boy, yet, but that's more because I can't talk his dad into it. And of course, I only have one, so I'm sure it's easier than it would be with more children.

I'm curious to learn your "Big Event" packing strategies.  Go on, share....HERE.

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